Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus – It’s all about Adaptability

Living in Australia, I don’t normally get to write about cacti. The other day when cycling past the train line near the Prahran Market, here they were (!), the bright yellow flowers of Prickly Pear Cactus. Mind you, I’ve been living in the area for many years now but have never noticed the cactus growing there before. When the striking flowers caught my eye, I knew that I’d find a reference for Prickly Pear Cactus amongst the Desert Alchemy essences.

Native to the Americas Prickly Pear Cactus Oputina is a genus of about 200 species and is also known under the names of Paddle Cactus or Nopales. They are one of the hardiest succulents and therefore survive cold weather better than other cacti, so have adapted to locations with colder climates. They have two kinds of spines, large smooth fixed spines and hairlike prickles, called glochids, who penetrate the skin and then detach from the plant easily.

In Australia, Prickly Pear Cactus has been introduced by the early settlers of Australia according to Wikipedia.

‘The first introduction of prickly-pear into Australia can be definitely ascribed to Governor Philip and the earliest colonists in the year 1788. Brought from Brazil to Sydney, they remained in Sydney, New South Wales, where it was rediscovered in a farmer’s garden in 1839. The farmer’s wife gave cuttings to neighbors and friends, who planted it not only in their gardens but also as hedgerows. So began the Australian invasion that caused major ecological damage in the Eastern states.”

Prickly Pear Cactus

When writing about flowers and plants I am rarely prepared for what I find regarding their healing properties, so I was very surprised reading about the multitude of health benefits of various Prickly Pear species. All parts of the plant, flesh, flowers and fruit have nutritional and/or medicinal properties and is referred to as ‘natural healer of the desert’. Here is a brief overview of the health benefits:

  • ability to treat type II diabetes
  • reduce cholesterol
  • the fruit juice has antioxidant properties
  • studies are underway to confirm findings of anti-cancer benefits, especially ovarian, bladder and cervical cancer cells
  • benefits for the prostate
  • a 1996 study published in Antiviral Research by Ahmad et al has demonstrated antiviral properties of the Opuntia streptacantha species.
  • rich in minerals, vitamins (E, C, B1, B6, Niacin) and other phytonutrients
  • the fruit pulp is rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium.

Nutritionally, Prickly Pear Cactus contains most of the vitamins and minerals required for the body, though in small quantities. The young pads can be fried or prepared fresh for a salad. The fruit can be eaten or juiced. Here is a recipe for a sorbet made with the fruit including safe handling techniques to remove the spines.

If you’re very keen to find out more have a look at this comprehensive overview on medical and nutrition research published by Frontiers in Bioscience Vol 11 in 2006.

Prickly Pear Cactus

Given the plants ability to survive colder climates ‘Adaptability’ is the key word for the flower essence Prickly Pear Cactus Oputina phaecantha var. discata, available through the Desert Alchemy range. Adaptability, in terms of the adapting to life’s circumstances, going with the flow and stepping out of old patterns and behaviours.


“Set patterns, incapable of adaptability, of pliability, only offer a better cage. Truth is outside of all patterns.” ― Bruce Lee, Tao of Jeet Kune Do


I love the description of ‘active surrender to what is’ by essence maker Cynthia Anthina Kemp Scherer and she follows saying ‘It supports our awareness in being synchronous with the events in our lives. When we are in harmony, our actions don’t come before our feelings, and our thoughts don’t direct our actions. All of our actions are based upon an inner assessment that includes our feelings, our thoughts and our intuition.’

We’re cutting ourselves off from the universal interplay if we approach life with rigidity when anxiously trying to control outcomes from our mind.  I know from my own experience that it takes incredible strength, trust and centredness to navigate life from a state of surrender especially when faced with difficulties – health, financial and/ or relationships. Having the ability and adaptability to be the flow of life allows us to engage ALL of the creative resources within ourselves and tap into the wealth of what IS at any given moment beyond our small view finder of seeing the world.

The ability of Prickly Pear Cactus, with its amazing wealth of health benefits, to adapt and survive in different environments shows us the possibility of living life within our fullest potential.

© 2014, Annette Zerrenthin

 C. A. Kemp Scherer. The Alchemy of the Desert. Desert Alchemy Editions, 2003.
 Gardening Australia's Flora. ABC Books, 2013.
Illawarra Flame Tree

Chasing Illawarra Flame Tree

I have been chasing the flowering of Illawarra Flame Tree for months. In late Winter, I went with my camera to the St Kilda Botanic Gardens to photograph a red flowering tree but then realised that I was looking at the Coral Tree Erythrina. From my books I learned that the Flame Tree is in flower at the same time as Jacaranda in the Australian late Spring or early Summer. Well, the Jacaranda’s are in full violet bloom right now in Melbourne but the scarlet flowers of the Flame Tree’s I remember so well from last year are missing.

When calling the Melbourne Botanic Gardens this week they confirmed that the Flame Trees are not flowering this season as the weather had been unusually cold and wet in Melbourne. My Encyclopedia of Australian Native Plants confirms that flowering can be erratic from year to year as the plant prefers a dry, mild winter. Very much wanting to write about Illawarra Flame Tree I had to dig into my photo archive to find a couple of photos I took quickly on the side the year before while I had concentrated on Jacaranda.

Illawarra Flame TreeIllawarra Flame Tree Brachychiton acerifolius is native to Australia’s northern tropical and sub-tropical regions. It belongs to the Malvaceae family and Brachychiton is a genus of 30 species which are all native to Australia with the exception of one or two found in Papua New Guinea.

In Australia, the genus is also known under the name Kurrajong. Just before flowering in late Spring or early Summer the tree loses its leaves giving way for spectacular sprays of bright scarlet bell-shaped flowers.

The pod-shaped fruits of the Kurrajong are 10cm long, dark brown in colour, and contain bright yellow seeds. Illawarra Flame Tree Seed CapsuleThe seeds were eaten by Aboriginals raw or roasted after removal of their irritating yellow hairs. When roasted over high heat, the seeds develop a nutty flavour. They are highly nutritious, containing protein, fats, zinc and magnesium.

The healing properties of the flower essence are actually based on the hand-like shape of the young leaves, appearing to reach out in search of acceptance. Thus, Illawarra Flame Tree Brachychiton acerifolius essence from the Australian Bush Flower Essences range is the essence to support someone with an overwhelming sense of rejection.

I believe that the feeling of rejection it is quite a regular occurrence these days. Our impersonal computerised world tends to enhance situations of rejection when for example applying for jobs in a tight job market over months or years when perhaps or perhaps less significant our posts on Facebook remain unacknowledged and our pages not liked. There is the feeling of rejection when a lover walks out or being excluded from a conversation at work. Writers, actors and creative folk deal with it so frequently that they share their stories on the official website ‘Literary Rejections’.

Psychologically, rejection destabilises our need to belong and undermines our self-esteem. When it occurs repeatedly it breaks us down. Seen from a higher perspective it can be our greatest teacher in learning to embrace and strengthen our uniqueness in the expression of self.

“Dearer are those who reject us as unworthy, for they add another life; they build a heaven before us whereof we had not dreamed, and thereby supply to us new powers out of the recesses of the spirit, and urge us to new and unattempted performances.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Illawarra Flame TreeIllawarra Flame Tree essence is for those people with an ingrained pattern of feeling deeply hurt when perceiving rejection, be it real or imaginary.

This pattern might play out with a tendency to join activities that are not liked in order to be part of a group and avoid being left out. Ian White of the Australian Bush Flower Essences writes on the consequences of such behaviour to the physical body: ‘Such actions are a deep denial of self and lead to a weakening of the thymus gland, the key to the immune system. Flame Tree essence strengthens and balances the thymus.’

There is an additional aspect to people who have this pattern of rejection in so far as they know that they have talents and abilities but feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of developing their potential. This perhaps due to the fear of showing their true selves and subsequently being possibly rejected.

Fear of responsibility is the second indication for this remedy, and can be used for example for people who continually delay parenthood due to being afraid of the responsibility it takes to have children.

The harmonising qualities of Illawarra Flame Tree essence are confidence, commitment, strength, self-reliance, and self-approval.

© 2013, Annette Zerrenthin

Bryant, Geoff. The Random House Encyclopedia of Australian Native Plants. Random House, 2005.
Low, Tim. Wild Food Plants of Australia. Angus&Robertson, 1991.
Gardening Australia's Flora. ABC Books, 2013.
White, Ian. Australian Bush Flower Essences. Bantam Books, 1991.
White, Ian, Australian Bush Flower Remedies. Bush Biotherapies Pty Ltd, 2006.



Borage, Bees and Courage

I have just returned from my travels to New Zealand to be part of the First Light Flower Essence of NZ workshop at the serene Tauhara Centre in Taupo. Apart from attending the workshop I’d been intending to photograph New Zealand’s native flowers but as so often, the flower world has its own plans and the borage in the veggie garden of the centre called to be portrayed enticing me with dew drops sparkling in the morning sun.

Borage Borago officinalis also known as Starflower and Bee’s Bread is an annual herb native to the Mediterranean. Known by the ancient Greeks Dioscorides and Pliny, it has been cultivated in Europe for its medicinal and culinary uses since the 15th century. There are different thoughts on the origins of the name:

  • Some consider it to be derived from the Latin name Borago, a corruption of courago, from cor, the heart and ago, I bring.
  • In the Mediterranean it is spelled with a double ‘r’, e.g., in Italian borra or French bourra, hair or wool, referring to the hairy appearance of the plant.
  • Clergyman, botanist and geologist John Stevens Henslow suggests its origin from the Celtic “barrach”…”a man of courage”. 

Interestingly though that the plant’s name is so closely linked to Courage as some the pharmaceutical effect of Borage relate to strengthening the heart and lifting the spirits.

Bees love borage, which according to various scientific studies and apiarists, have a preference for colours in the blue/violet spectrum. Another explanation for their attraction might however be the nectar-rich flowers that refill with nectar every two minutes.

IMG_5247_cTo nourish the bees and yourself you probably can’t go wrong growing some borage in your garden. The cucumber flavoured leaves can be added to salads or you can steam the leaves as you would spinach. The flowers can also be used in salads, they can be candied or used to dye vinegar blue.

The plant is highly nutritious containing vitamins (C, A, B3), minerals (eg, iron, calcium, potassium) and tannins as well as the essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (omega 6). Culinary use comes with a health warning as the plant contains small amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can cause liver damage. As this toxin is present in extremely small quantities you’ll need to eat borage in very large quantities for it to be harmful.

IMG_5271Medicinally, Borage is used for diseases of the urinary and respiratory tracts, constipation, fever, wounds, ulcers, menopause problems and the oil for skin disorders.

The high percentage of gamma gamma-linolenic acid makes Borage seed oil ideal to for skin regeneration, improves its elasticity and helps to ease wrinkles. The oil has shown to be effective treating skin disorders including eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and neurodermatitis.

Taken internally, it is extremely effective for PMS – balancing hormones and the psyche. The Italian doctor and naturalist Pietro Andrea Mattioli (1501 – 1577) summarised the psychological benefits of borage oil, “It strengthens the heart and vital spirit, takes away anxiety, depression and grief.”

‘I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.’ Nelson Mandela

Borage flower essence (FES – Flower Essence Society) likewise supports us in situations when we require courage. It is indicated to be used for heavy heartedness, lack of confidence in facing difficult circumstances.

The indications for use of this essence are beautifully described in the Flower Essence Repertory: ‘Borage is an excellent heart remedy, especially for the feeling of heaviness in the heart, and perhaps throughout the body. … At times when the soul experiences too much grief, sadness, or other adversity, the heart can become contracted and heavy. We call this feeling ‘discouraged’ or ‘disheartened.’ The soul needs to learn that is can counter-balance this fettered feeling in the heart by contacting that which is ‘light’, or uplifting. This quality of soul courage is not so much connected to grit or strength, but to a condition of buoyancy in the soul which helps it to rise above, rather than sink into the weight of discouragement or depression. Borage flower essence helps the heart to experience this ebullience and lightness, filling the soul with fresh forces of optimism and enthusiasm.’

Each time I’m writing one of these posts I’m becoming more and more reverent to the plant kingdom. It amazes me how years ago I could just walk past plants being ignorant of what they have to offer. It’s been an honour to be called by Borage in Tauhara’s garden to allow me to learn more about it and to share it with you here.

© 2013, Annette Zerrenthin

P. Kaminski, R. Katz. Flower Essence Repertory. The Flower Essence Society, 1992.
Dr. U. Kuenkele, T. R. Lohmeyer. Herbs for Healthy Living. Parragon Books Ltd., 2007.
A. Rausch, B. Lotz. Dumont's Lexicon of Herbs. Rebo, 2006.
M. Roberts. Tea. Recipes for Health, Wellbeing and Taste. New Holland, 2011.
D. Wabner. Aromatherapie. Urban & Fischer, 2012.
Grevillea superb

Grevillea – Of Boldness, Strength and Courage

Grevilleas are diverse, with about 340 species native mainly to Australia but some can also be found in New Guinea, New Caledonia, Indonesia, and Sulawesi. They come in all shapes and sizes from small ground-cover shrubs less than 50 cm in height to tall trees up to 35 m.

They are named in honour of Charles Francis Greville (1749 – 1809) a British antiquarian, collector and politician, who was a passionate gardener and a close friend of botanist Sir Joseph Banks.

Grevilleas distinctive colourful flower clusters come in three basic forms





and large brushes.

Grevillea robusta - Silky oak

Grevilleas are mentioned in Tim Low’s  field guide ‘Wild Food Plants of Australia’ as a food source with the flowers producing a sweet nectar. Flowers of Golden Grevillea Grevillea pteridifolia common in tropical woodlands of northern Australia, for example, are rich in Vitamin C while Silky Oak Grevillea robusta (see photo above) is one of the best nectar producers.

The sweet nectar of  Grevilleas attract insects, birds and marsupials and the flower heads of some species have been used by Aborigines as food source who, for example, soaked them in water to make a sweet drink. (Please note that some of the cultivated species of Grevillea contain toxic cyanide.)

Flower essences of two native Grevilleas can be found in the  Australian Bush Flower Essence range with Red Grevillea Grevillea speciosa and Grey Spider Flower Grevillea buxifolia.

Red Grevillea’s  Grevillea speciosa healing potential is to support someone feeling stuck in their lives or for people who are oversensitive, are easily affected by criticism and by unpleasant people. They are often too reliant on others.

IMG_5195Just before coming into full bloom Grevilleas (pictured Silky Oak Grevillea robusta) flower stamens are curled in, symbolizing a contraction, something that can be experienced when being stuck in life. Life is circling in on itself as we don’t know which step to take next, being indecisive of the direction to take, or we have a direction set too rigidly in our minds but whatever we are trying to do we are faced with setbacks. Does this scenario sound familiar? It does to me having ticked all those boxes over the past months. What I learned was to let go of rigidly hanging on to a direction that was stuck in my mind and open up my life to other possibilities. 

The curled stamens likewise symbolise the energies of people, who are oversensitive and in order to feel safe, they retreat energetically and physically into themselves.


Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are. Bernice Johnson Reagon 


When the flower comes into full bloom its stamens unfurl and expand. Illustrating expansion after contraction, our life starts to blossom and possibilities are popping up on every corner. There is strength and a feeling of growth, seeing the world with fresh eyes.

The positive potential for Red Grevillea flower essence is boldness, strength to leave unpleasant situations and indifference to the judgement of others.

Grey Spider Flower Grevillea buxifolia essence is used for extreme terror and especially, when having been confronted by a life-threatening situation. It is also indicated by fear of the supernatural and psychic attack.

Ian White, the maker of the Australian Bush Flower Essences, writes about the harmonising qualities of this essence: ‘When you look at this flower you can clearly see a face, with two sunken eyes and a wide-open mouth, resembling the famous, haunting, expressionistic painting of the 1930s by Edvard Munch, The Scream. This suggests the quality of the plant, as it is very good for helping to resolve terror and to bring about courage, calmness and faith.’

© 2013, Annette Zerrenthin

Bryant, G. Australian Native Plants. Random House, 2005.
Gardening Australia. Flora. ABC Books, 2013.
Low, T. Wild Food Plants of Australia. Angus&Robertson, 1991.
White, I. Australian Bush Flower Essences. Bantam Books, 1991.
White, I. Australian Bush Flower Remedies. Bush Biotherapies Pty Ltd, 2006.

The Rose – Love, Beauty, Life

I asked the rose, ‘From whom did you steal that beauty?’
The rose laughs softly out of shame, but how should she tell? – Rumi

Why on earth am I writing on roses? Hasn’t there been enough written about them, used in imagery a million times over and poetry galore? My reluctance to write about roses has included my avoidance to photograph them. Don’t get me wrong I adore roses and love to have them in my house and as I’m writing, there is a bunch of blush pink hybrids in a vase standing right next to me. The rose is all too perfect:  it is beautiful with a divine fragrance and is so versatile being used in cosmetics, as perfume, healing, cooking, aromatherapy and as a medicinal plant.  It is an ancient symbol of love and beauty. A sacred symbol in Islam and Christianity.

In Christianity, the five petals of the rose symbolise the five wounds of Christ.

Rosa gallicaThere are over 100 species of wild roses, most are native to Asia, with smaller numbers from Europe, North America, and northwest Africa. The vast range of today’s rose varieties evolved by cross-breeding roses of different varieties and with those traded across continents and countries. Jennifer Potter, horticultural historian, gives us an insight into the cultural history of this beautiful flower in her book ‘The Rose’  that takes us on a journey from Greek and Roman empires, through Europe, the Middle East to China.

In the West, wild and cultivated roses were mentioned to have medicinal properties by the ancient Greeks in De Materia Medica . Prepared in various ways they were used to ease sore eyes, ears and gums, aches and pains, inflammations, wounds or used in cosmetics.

In aromatherapy, rose essential oils are produced from Rosa damascena or Rosa centifolia by steam distillation (Rose otto) or through solvent extraction (Rose absolute).  The latter is the preferred choice for perfumes as this method isolates more efficiently the odorous components of the flower. Rose essential oil has a soothing effect on the emotions and can be used to ease depression or grief, it lifts the heart and addresses nervous tension and stress. Used topically, it is indicated for dermatitis, wounds and wrinkles. It has antiviral and antiseptic properties and research has shown it to be effective to treat chronic bronchitis.

The by-product of steam distillation is rosewater, a floral water which is also known as a hydrolate. Rosewater contains all water-soluble constituents of rose flowers.

A scene in the movie Farewell, My Queen, shows French queen Marie-Antoinette use rosewater on one of her servants to ease itching from insect bites. ‘Interesting’ I thought, ‘must look this up’ …  and indeed rosewater is indicated to be cooling and soothing for itchy skin infections. You can also use it externally for eye infections, burns and take internally to calm anxiety and stress.

IMG_4945One of the wild roses native to Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia is Rosa canina, commonly known as Dog Rose. For medicinal use leaves, flower petals and the rose hips are gathered seasonally to make tea, fruit puree, jelly, liqueur, wine or rosewater. High in Vitamin C, its rose hips are used to strengthen the immune system to fend against colds, flu and seasonal tiredness.

There is a difference between the fragrant floral water of roses and the flower essence of Wild Rose. The latter is a vibrational preparation of the flower in water without taste or scent. Flower essences are predominantly used to balance emotional states.

The Bach flower essence of Wild Rose Rosa canina is for those experiencing apathy, a lack of interest and ambition. There is a resignation and inner capitulation towards life. Edward Bach writes on the properties of this essence: ‘Those without apparently sufficient reason become resigned to all that happens, and just glide through life, take it as it is, without any effort to improve things and find some joy. They have surrendered to the struggle to life without complaint.’

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? -Mary Oliver 

The positive potential of Wild Rose flower essence is to regain the zest for life, to embrace it fully and feel an inner freedom and vitality.

© Annette Zerrenthin, 2013.

M. Scheffer. The Encyclopedia of Bach Flower Therapy. Healing Arts Press, 2001.
Dr. U. Kuenkele, T.R. Lohmeyer. Herbs For Healthy Living. Parragon, 2007.
J. Potter. The Rose. Atlantic Books, 2010.
W. Sellar. The Directory of Essential Oils. Vermillion, 2001.
D. Wabner. Aromatherapie. Urban & Fischer, 2012.

Wisteria – Purple Rain of Sensuality

The wisterias are in blossom in my neighbourhood and I adore seeing this abundance of cascading flowers swaying in the breeze resembling violet-coloured waterfalls. The gentle softness of the wisteria flowers are betraying the climbing killer that lives underneath strangling anything in its way for the best spot to display its beauty in the sunlight.

A member of the pea family wisterias include 10 species that are native to North America and East Asia. They can grow to a height of 30 metres and are known to live up to 100 years. When visiting the Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi, Japan you will find a 143 year old Wisteria Tree among the many species displayed there.


There is much symbolism attached to this hardy vine including love, grace, endurance, longevity, creative expansion and victory over hardship. In Shin Buddhism wisterias with their low hanging blossoms are a symbol of prayer and sincere reverence to Amida Buddha.


Bridging history and cultures wisteria flowers have a symbolic connection to love in all its forms but the Japanese symbolism of love, sensuality, support, sensitivity, bliss and tenderness describes most closely the harmonising qualities of the flower essence remedy.

“In pale moonlight /
the wisteria’s scent /
comes from far away.”
Yosa Buson


Wisteria flower essence (Wisteria sinesis) is probably the one essence within the Australian Bush Flower Essences range that is not made from an Australian native plant. This essence is primarily a remedy for women that is addressing sexuality and sensuality but can be used in males wanting to get in touch with their gentler more feminine aspect of being. Consider a combination with Flannel Flower for balancing these aspects in men.

Combined with Fringed Violet, Wisteria flower essence will assist women to clear the emotional and physical scarring caused by sexual abuse or assault.

The remedy is included in the ABFE combination essences Sensuality, Sexuality and Face, Hand and Body.

© Annette Zerrenthin, 2013

I. White. Australian Bush Flower Essences. Bantam Books,  1991.
I. White. Australian Bush Flower Healing. Bantam Books, 1999.
I. White. Australian Bush Flower Remedies. Bush Biotherapies Ltd, 2006.

Banksia – Joie de vivre

Writing this blog over the past year my focus has shifted more and more towards highlighting the plants in their natural environments. I’ve come to understand that our lives depend entirely on plants, without them we would not be here … food, shelter, oxygen, healing. Yet there is a disconnection from the natural environment for those of us who live in cities following a hectic lifestyle. We forget that a day out in nature can so easily bring us back to ourselves and connect us to our bodies and souls feeling the spark why we are here, a joie de vivre.

Today my focus is on Banksia’s and the four flower essences in the Australian Bush Flower Essences and Living Essences of Australia ranges.

Banksia’s are iconic to the Australian landscape. They were named after English botanist Sir Joseph Banks who first described them when landing on the Endeavour at Botany Bay as part of Captain Cooks exploration in 1770. Since their first description by the European explorer 173 species of shrubs and small trees have been classified as banksias. They are widely distributed throughout the Australian continent and Tasmania, but don’t grow in the deserts. The majority of Banksia’s can be found in south-western Australia.

The characteristic flower spikes, which turn into woody fruits, are rich in nectar and are a food source for native birds, bats, insects, possums and sugar gliders.

Here are some examples of the diverse genus I photographed at Sydney Harbour National Park, in Western Australia and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. The diversity of our plant world is so incridible, have a look for example at the difference in leaves in these photos.

Heath Banksia, Banksia ericifolia at Sydney Harbour National Park.

Heath Banksia

Coast BanksiaBanksia integrifolia at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne (also image at top)

Coast Banksia

The spherical woody fruit cone of Round Fruited Banksia, Banksia sphaerocarpa at Porongurup National Park, WA


The magnificent Giant Banksia, Banksia grandis at Porongurup NP in WA

Banksia grandisIMG_2904

Yellow and burgundy coloured Cut-leaf Banksia’sBanksia praemorsa, at Stirling Range NP, WA.

Yellow Cut-Leaf Banksia


… and last but not least Ashby’s Banksia, Banksia ashbyi at Kings Park in Perth, WA.


Menzies Banksia Banksia menziesii from the Living Essences of Australia range supports a person in letting go of emotional pain, overcoming fear and pessimism that has come from negative experience/s anchored in the cellular memory of the body. It is ‘for the person caught up in their pain and not able to see beyond it. For those trying to transcend pain’. The harmonising qualities of the essence are freedom, joy, courage, regeneration. The essence can also be used topically to relief physical pain in areas on the muscles around the spine, neck and joints.

Woolly Banksia Banksia hookeriana (also know under the common names of Hooker’s or Acorn Banksia) supports us in manifesting our dreams by shifting into the energy of success when we have become defeatist, disheartened, unsure and being stuck on our path. It is used for those that see only more problems and hardship on the way ahead. This essence helps to succeed by taking one step at a time rather than being overwhelmed by the chatter in our minds of the magnitude of the task ahead. It ‘gives the inspiration, strength and vitality to get on top of things and conquer, no matter how weary one feels’.

Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas. Henry Ford 

Of the Australian Bush Flower Essences Old Man Banksia Banksia serrata is for those with a solid, plethoric, heavy disposition who may often present with low energy. These people tend to have earthly natures and operate more from their bodies and emotions than from their minds. They may be disheartened by setbacks in life, weary and frustrated.

While Old Man Banksia flower essence is for those with a particular constitution Swamp Banksia Banksia robur assists those in situations with temporary tiredness, frustrations or setbacks. These people are normally energetic, dynamic and enthusiastic but due to illness, disappointment or burnout the out of balance symptoms presented are low energy, being disheartened, weary and frustrated.

Both essences bring back spark, energy and enthusiasm into a person’s life, an enjoyment of and interest in life.

I. White. Australian Bush Flower Essences. Bantam Books, 1991.
I. White. Australian Bush Flower Healing. Bantam Books, 1999.
V. & K. Barnao. Australian Flower Essences for the 21st Century. Australian Flower Essence Academy, 1997.
G. Bryant. Australian Native Plants. Random House, 2005.

On Bottlebrush

Bottlebrush is one of the plant genera that signify the Australian landscape along Eucalyptus, Acacia and Grevillia. Belonging to the Myrtaceae family there are two species that use the common name Bottlebrush, Callistemon (with 35 – 40 species) and Beaufortia (18 species). The latter are endemic to south-western Australia, while Callistemon can be found throughout temperate and subtropical regions of Australia.

Beaufortia are named after the botanical patron Duchess of Beaufort. As I had some Beaufortia images on file that I photographed in the Stirling Range National Park I thought to post them here, even though the Bottlebrush flower essences are made from two of the Callistemon species.

Beaufortia decussata | Gravel Bottlebrush


Beaufortia schaueri | Pink Bottlebrush


Beaufortia squarrosa | Sand Bottlebrush


The flower spikes of bottlebrushes form in Spring and Summer. The long prominent stamens make up the dense cylindrical spikes while the petals of the flower are almost hidden at the base.

The name Callistemon is derived from the Greek – kallistos, most beautiful and stema, a stamen.


Australian Bushflower Essences and Living Essences of Australia both offer a bottlebrush essence in their range with different harmonising qualities.

Living Essences of Australia’s Queensland Bottlebrush (Callistemon polandi) essence is entitled ‘The Sociable Spirit’ and brings about the enjoyment of fellow human beings. It is for those people who see only the benefits they can get from others and have the tendency to withdraw when they are being asked to contribute.

It helps people who feel physically, emotionally or mentally overwhelmed when in the company of others or for those, that have been taken advantage of by others and feel unsettled when in company.

‘The healing brings an internal focus where the person maintains a social projection of themselves which is true to themselves and is assertive enough to establish a balanced rapport with others. There is then an energy balance not an energy drain.’


As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others. ~ Marianne Williamson


The ABFE Bottlebrush (Callistemon linearis) essence has the harmonising qualities of serenity and calm, the abilities to cope and move on relating to dealing with major life changes such as old age, adolescence, parenthood, pregnancy or approaching death. This essence assists the person resisting change to let go of the old.


When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need. ~Tao Te Ching


When I use the essence in my clinic sessions the first that often comes to mind is its connection with the large intestine meridian. In Chinese medicine theory the large intestine meridian is associated with letting go of believes, habits or emotions that don’t serve one any longer. Here the Bottlebrush essence quite literally assists in this process of elimination. It helps to brush away the past and allows a person to move on to new situations and experiences.

I. White. Australian Bush Flower Essences. Bantam, 1991.
I. White. Australian Bush Flower Healing. Bantam, 1999.
V. & K. Barnao. Australian Flower Essences for the 21st Century. Australian Flower Essence Academy, 1997.
D. Greig. Field Guide to Australian Wildflowers. New Holland, 2012.
G. Bryant. Australian Native Plants. Random House Australia, 2005.

© Annette Zerrenthin, 2013.


Sweet Violet

A violet in the youth of primy nature,
Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,
The perfume and suppliance of a minute.
Shakespeare in  ‘Hamlet’

Violets are in bloom right now in the cool Melbourne mid-winter. My discovery of their return into flower the other day was not by seeing them but smelling their fragrance when walking past … then the remembering … ahh, the violets!! … and my trying to slow down my step to indulge in their sweet scent.

Violets Viola odorata are native to Europe and Asia but are now cultivated across the world.  Who wouldn’t grow a violet for  their wonderful scent,  health benefits and culinary use?

In the beautifully illustrated book ‘wild kochen’ Anette Eckmann uses her violets in recipes for making  tea, a vinaigrette, candied violet flowers or liqueur. The web shares many recipes for candied violets and violet syrup to flavour ice creams, cakes or sparkling wine.


Violets were mentioned  as an important medicinal plant as far back in history as the first century AD. The whole plant – leaves, flowers and roots are used in herbal healing for their constituents of saponins, salicylic acid glycosides, essential oils, mucilage and alkaloids (odoratin, violin).

Treatments include bronchitis, lung diseases, coughs, influenza, skin diseases (ulcers, rashes, pimples) wounds, rheumatic complaints. The soothing mucilage of violet leaves, flowers and roots acts as a decongestant in the lungs and throat and opens blocked sinuses. It is helpful for hay fever, sneezing and itchy eyes.

In homeopathy viola odorata is used as a remedy for earache, eye diseases and whooping cough.


The expensive essential oil made either from the flowers or leaves of violets is cleansing to the kidneys and decongestive to the lower body, speak it has laxative properties. It is beneficial for the respiratory tract, soothes inflammation of the throat and has been found to have painkilling properties. It balances the emotions, helps with anxiety and nervous exhaustion.


So many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes, yet they would open up, unfolding quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them. ~ Sylvia Plath


This quote by Sylvia Plath describes so well the person who could benefit from the harmonising qualities of Violet flower essence (Flower Essence Society). Violet is for the person with profound shyness, being aloof, reserved and with a fear of being submerged in groups. It brings about harmonising qualities of having a highly perceptive sensibility, an elevated spiritual perspective and the ability to share with others while remaining true to self.

Just as the hidden violets come out to shine with their powerful fragrance when warmed by sunshine, so may the flower essence help a reserved person to feel comfortable to open up in the presence of others and shine.

 P. Kaminski, R. Katz. Flower Essence Repertory. Flower Essence Society, Nevada City, 1992.
 S. Chiazzari. Colour Scents. Saffron Walden, Essex, 1998.
 W. Sellar. The Directory of Essential Oils. Vermillion, London, 2001.
 M. Roberts. Tea - Recipes for Health, Wellbeing and Taste. New Holland, Chatswood, 2011.
 A. Eckmann. wild kochen - Aus der gruenen Speisekammer der Natur. Christian, Muenchen, 2011.
 Dr. U. Kuenkele, T.R. Lohmeyer. Herbs For Healthy Living. Parragon, Bath, 2007.

Grass Tree – ‘The Strength of the Patient Heroine’

Did you know that Australia has two genera of grass trees which interestingly bear distinct ‘male’ and ‘female’ features?

The Xanthorrhoea genus has a long spiked flower head while Kingia features egg-shaped clusters of flowers. Initially they were thought to be ‘male’ and ‘female’ species of the same plant as they bear superficial similarities when not in flower. Apart from the striking difference in their flower heads ‘Kingia and Xanthorrhoea are biologically quite distinct and are not closely related. For example, Xanthorrhoea have a secondary thickening meristem in the trunk (Dracaenoid secondary thickening meristem), whereas Kingia lack this feature.’ (Wikipedia)

I will write on Kingia today as the kind folks from Living Essences of Australia have made a flower essence from this uniquely Australian plant. Kingia is a genus of one species, Kingia australis, that is endemic to south-western Australia. Kingias can grow  up to 8 meters in height and they do so incredibly slowly, up to 1 1/2 cm pro year or about 1m in a century.

So, this specimen I’m standing next to in the Stirling Range is about 100+ years old.

Considering this slow growth, the makers of  Goddess Grasstree  flower essence aptly entitled the description of its qualities with ‘The Strength of the Patient Heroine’.

“For the maturing of the female principle or woman within. For both men and women a metamorphosis to inner strength, nurturing sensitivity, patience and loving wisdom that is not emotionally dependent. Helpful in releasing the feminine aspect into society.”


The feminine values are the fountain of bliss.
Know the masculine, Keep to the feminine. ~ Lao Tzu



The essence is used for physical imbalances of menstrual abnormalities and female hormone imbalances. These healing properties are similar to the Australian Bush Flower Essence She Oak.

For mind and emotions it can be used to support people with an underactive unbalanced feminine aspect who are unable to bring out their nurturing, compassionate or patient side or when it is overactive, tend to resort only to their emotions to deal with relationships.

The harmonising qualities of this essence are: mature, nurturing, patient, supportive and unconditional love.

V. & K. Barnao. Australian Flower Essences for the 21st Century. Australian Flower Essence Academy, Perth, 1997.
G. Bryant. Australian Native Plants. Random House Australia, 2003.
M.G. Corrick, B. A. Fuhrer. Wildflowers of Southern Western Australia. Rosenberg, 2009.

© 2013. Annette Zerrenthin